If LeBron James is close to making a decision about his basketball future you wouldn’t know it, at least from him. The speculation and scenarios being drawn are all on the if/come and mostly exist in that odd space where wishful thinking repeated often enough magically turns into fact.
James will make whatever decision he needs to make soon enough. The basis on which that decision will get made has not changed. He will play basketball for the team that gives him the absolute best path to continue to win championships. It really is as simple as that and as complicated, for the team that gives him that mythical best chance is a matter of opinion, not fact.
If there is anything amusing at the moment or perhaps delicious is watching/listening/reading the angst of the Miami Heat fan as they ponder life without James, first, then Dwyane Wade, second, then Chris Bosh a distant third. It’s as if Heat fan continues to harbor the belief that this so called Big 3, in and of itself, presents the best opportunity for more NBA rings. That belief was delivered a hard blow of reality in this year’s NBA Finals, but why let the facts get in the way.
Dan Le Betard, writing in Monday’s Miami Herald, had a column that mostly rings true until it doesn’t. His overarching message is that Heat fans need to relax because rumor isn’t fact and unless and until James speaks, there is nothing to see. That’s fine as far as it goes. Unfortunately it goes further as Le Betard then essentially runs down the same rat holes to offer the counter theory that James isn’t going anywhere because, I guess, wishful thinking.
He says James likes Miami, is a team player, yadda yadda yadda. This is supposed to give a suddenly anxious Miami fan looking for any good news comfort? Maybe. But offering it up is to simply provide counterpoint to the other theories out there and why, for example, James will end up back in Cleveland, nothing more.
Nature abhors a vacuum and so do sports fan. In the absence of real news, they’ll make it up. The whole Twitter explosion on Sunday about Dan Gilbert’s plane is just another version of “so and so has his house on the market” or “so and so was in town looking for houses.”
So let’s return to, as that great American statesman and linguist Don Rumsfeld would say, to the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.
James is a mercenary, plain and simple. He may love Miami. He may love Akron. But in truth if this were the mid 1930s and Munich, Germany had a team in the NBA owned by a guy with a funny moustache, James would sign with Mr. Hitler’s group if it presented him with the absolute best path to championships. Plenty of NBA players took the blood money from serial racist Donald Sterling for years. James isn’t motivated as much by money because he earns so much off the court. He’s motivated solely by winning and if that’s with the Munich Stormtroopers James would be the last person to express regret.
James is loyal to this friends and teammates. That was true in Cleveland and is true in Miami. It was also be true should he land in still another city. Remember, kids change schools all the time. New friends get made. When you have f-you money, your friends tend to find you anyway. James didn’t stay in Cleveland out of loyalty to friends and he won’t do it in Miami either unless that loyalty presents him with the absolute best path to championships.
Those are the known knowns. The known unknowns consist mostly of what James believes provides him the best path to championships. This will remain unknown until, again to channel Rummy, it’s known and not before. All of the great and not so great NBA writers with well-placed sources and high minded opinions can speculate all they want about Cleveland’s core of young players and their view of where that puts the team in the league pecking order. The only analysis that means anything is the one James is currently pondering as he vacations while others simultaneously start and extinguish fires.
The unknown unknowns are the trickiest for it’s theoretically possible that James will alter his thinking and leave his talents in Miami or take them elsewhere based on something other than the absolute best path to championships. And this is where these kinds of columns tend to fall apart.
As writers, as speculators, as fans, we crave information. The less available it is the more we crave it. In the absence of information we’ll just fill in the blanks ourselves based on nothing more than wishful thinking as to how we want it to turn out or think it ought to turn out.
Truthfully, here anyway, there are no unknown unknowns. When all is said and done and James has made his decision he’ll say what he’s always said: “I want to win championships and this is the place that gives me the best chance for that.” If that exact quote or something close enough for government work isn’t said at the time of Decision II, The Sequel, I’ll eat my hat.
There isn’t any real romance to sports. Things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. The only thing you get is what you actually deserve and even then that’s up for grabs. You don’t get a hole in one on the golf course just because it’s your birthday and you don’t land the best basketball player on the planet just because you think you got screwed by him 4 years ago.
It would mean a great deal to this town to once again have a viable winter diversion. When James left he took a piece of everyone with him. He may have matured in these last 4 years but never confuse maturity with sentimentality. He won’t come to Cleveland just because he thinks he owes it to this town. He’ll come if at all because, let’s say it together, it gives him the absolute best path to championships. We can talk about the potential of Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and whoever else is on the roster when the dust clears.The only opinion that has ever mattered in this equation is James’ and if the roster falls short relative to what he sees elsewhere then Cavs fans can again lament their misfortune. And so that we don’t confuse the issue, the misfortune is not that James didn’t choose Cleveland. It’s that the Cavs and all their front office changes over the last four years didn’t accomplish nearly enough to make his decision easy for him.